Treading Water, by Ginna Moran

I had the pleasure of diving into Diving Under, the first part of Ginna Moran’s Spark of Life series, back in November. It tells the story of Ava Adair, recently graduated from high school, whose life changes when she’s accidentally knocked overboard into the ocean and saved by a hunky and sweet merman named Carter. The catch is that…well, she’s now a catch of the day. In order to save her, Carter had to transform Ava into a mermaid. Though Ava can switch back and forth between legs and a tail, she’s still learning, and that’s where some of the complications ensue.

That was enough to sell me on the first part, which I enjoyed and gave four stars to. It’s a fun, light-hearted tale (or tail), and I can look past the insta-love between Carter and Ava because they and the other characters are immensely likable. There’s a lot of heart and humor in the story, and it packs a cliffhanger that made me want to read part two.

Just a reminder: Though I’m spoiler-free for the book I’m reviewing, I cannot guarantee that for previous parts in a series.

Treading Water takes place shortly after the events of Diving Under. Without Carter’s ring to help stabilize her human form, Ava is trapped underwater as a mermaid. She’s pretty much under house arrest, after Carter’s mother brought her to the ocean realm of Pearlestria. Complicating matters further, King Attilonius forces her to remain there for two reasons: (1) Mermaids are supposed to keep their existence a secret, so staying in the ocean protects them all as it prevents Ava from having an unexpected transformation in view of humans, and (2) When Carter saved Ava from drowning, he gave her his spark of life, and by doing so, mermaid tradition dictates that he chose Ava as his mate, and the King demands they have a coupling ceremony.

I liked that this book started immediately with this greater and clearer conflict. Naturally for a first part, Diving Under required an introduction of characters and world before the story could really go anywhere, but even so, the primary conflict there was Ava dealing with her new life and not exposing herself by the obligatory transformations at inopportune times. Here, there’s the conflict of being held against her will by a formidable antagonist—something the first book lacked.

With the story being narrated first-person by Ava, I was concerned that with her kept under the water, some of the interesting human characters from book one—particularly her best friend Giselle—would fall by the wayside in book two. Or worse, be replaced with a new best mermaid friend. A delightful new character, Princess Luna, is introduced, but she’s definitely distinct from Giselle. And I was happy to see how Giselle’s presence was woven into the plot.

Also, I really like the development of Ava and Carter’s relationship. It feels much more three-dimensional as they struggle with the balance of their identity as a couple vs. their individual identities. That’s a complex thing to convey, and Moran does it well, deftly skirting the line between Young Adult and New Adult sensibilities.

Though I won’t reveal the ending, the stakes genuinely get raised as Ava’s decisions have genuine consequences. For lack of a better word, the final showdown in the book had me on the edge of my seat, worrying about the fates of several of the characters. Because Diving Under ended in a kind of cliffhanger, I fully expecting this book to as well, and it was one that I never saw coming. Yet with the little pieces sprinkled along the way, the reveal intrigues me, and I’ve already picked up a copy of Washing Ashore.

Oh, and while I’m at it, I want to mention how much I love the titles of the books in this series. They’re all similarly structured (two words, the first an -ing verbs) and all connected to an action in the ocean. And so far, they aptly reflect where Ava’s emotional state is in the series. Nicely done!

Treading Water is an excellent advancement of this series, and I give it FOUR AND A HALF STARS.

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Treading Water is available at Amazon.

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